Volkswagen is setting new standards in vehicle safety with its intelligent safety systems. However, since no system can ultimately replace the driver, the carmaker organizes driving and safety training courses worldwide. The Volkswagen Driving Experience allows young and veteran drivers alike to get to grips with ABS, ESP and other state-of-the-art safety features.
For a passing moment, it’s the smallest racetrack in the world. Two Golf GTIs drive around an oval ring of orange-colored cones. The engines roar Formula One-style and the tires squeal loud enough to drown out the wind that whistles across the small sports airfield. During the Volkswagen Driving Experience, drivers deliberately push the cars to their limits.
One of these drivers is 20-year-old Bernhard Fischer, who has come to the Upper Bavarian town of Mühldorf along with two dozen other Golf drivers to learn how to tame a 210 PS engine. Volkswagen offers free safety training to every GTI buyer under the age of 21. Fischer has come to the event together with his sister and is now sitting calmly in his Golf with a radio transmitter listening to the instructions of the driving trainer – none other than racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck. Stuck, a long- distance champion and former Formula One pilot, calls in the drivers lapping the track. A young woman with wavy brown hair opens the driver’s door and smiles shyly. Stuck looks approvingly into the sea of male faces: “This young lady won four out of five races because she simply kept a cool head throughout.” Fischer grimaces: It just had to be his sister.
FROM THE “MOOSE TEST” TO WET HANDLING
“You have laboratory conditions here,” warns Stuck, “but when it comes to the crunch, you only have one chance to get it right!” This is why Volkswagen extends its training to include more than just GTI enthusiasts: Over 17,000 customers have taken part in the Company’s “Young Driver” program since it was launched in 2004. A similar number of drivers of all ages throughout Germany complete Volkswagen Driving Experience driving and safety training every year. As well as this, there is the “Aktion Besser Fahren” – Better Driving – campaign. Several times a year, Volkswagen and its partner, German car magazine “auto motor und sport”, come together to offer driving dynamics training on test tracks such as Nürburgring and Sachsenring. In most cases, the exercises – ranging from moose tests to wet handling – are the ones performed as part of the magazine’s official testing program. Every year, this glimpse behind the scenes is rated as “excellent” by enthusiastic participants. Volkswagen ambassador Stuck would even like to see such training become mandatory for drivers: “Brakes and drive systems have changed so much in recent years that many people have no idea what their cars are capable of.”
Left: Volkswagen Driving Experience
Right: NOT A QUESTION OF AGE – 70-year-old Sebastian Hollweck and Bernhard Fischer, 20, pay careful attention to their trainer’s instructions.